North Carolinians With High-Risk Medical Conditions Move Up COVID Vaccine Waitlist, Positive Tests Hit New Low
The state is expanding eligibility for vaccines to people with medical conditions that put them at high risk from COVID-19 on March 17 — a week sooner than previously planned. People living in congregate settings such as prisons and homeless shelters will also become eligible at that time.
Top health officials say they want available doses to be used up as quickly as possible. Proceeding to Group 4 is an effort to keep demand ahead of supply. At a media briefing Thursday, officials announced that North Carolina will open up vaccinations to the rest of Group 4 — including more essential workers and students living in dorms — on April 7.
BREAKING: Starting 3/17, some people from Group 4 will be eligible for the vaccine:— WUNC (@wunc) March 11, 2021
📌 People with medical conditions at higher-risk for COVID-19
📌 People living in congregate settings that increase risk of exposure to COVID-19
The rest of Group 4 will be eligible on 4/7. pic.twitter.com/bOOsGUfMfk
The state expanded eligibility to Group 3 last week, which includes an estimated 1.2 million people.
Deputy Health Secretary Kody Kinsley said the strategy is to be certain that local health providers are using all of their supply each week.
"We want to make sure across the board we're keeping demand ahead of supply to keep us moving as fast as possible because fast as possible means saving lives overall," said Kinsley.
Appointment slots that open up are often filled just minutes after they become available. Kinsley said the state health department is encouraging local providers to create multiple ways to make appointments and set aside some for historically marginalized groups.
On Thursday, positive tests for COVID-19 in North Carolina reached their lowest mark since tracking started a few weeks after the pandemic hit the state. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' latest data show a positivity test rate of 3.8%.
WUNC's Rusty Jacobs contributed to this report.